Tyrone Power

Legendary film and stage actor Tyrone Power was widely known as a “matinee idol” during a career that spanned more than 25 years. He starred in numerous films including The Long Grey Line, The Mark Of Zorro, The Sun Also Rises and A Yank In The RAF. Power’s performance as an accused murderer in the motion picture, Witness for the Prosecution, is considered by many cinema historians to be his finest.

Most people are familiar with Tyrone Power the movie star, but did you know that he was also an accomplished pilot? Power learned to fly in 1938 during the filming of the classic western Jesse James. He was also a Marine Corps aviator and served our country during and after World War II. Indeed, flying was a major part of Power’s life.

Power, like many of his Hollywood contemporaries, was caught up in the post Pearl Harbor patriotic fever sweeping the nation by early 1942. When the call to arms came, he promptly enlisted in the Marine Corps. Power’s initial goal was to become a Marine Corps glider pilot.  However, because of his age (28 at the time) and lack of a college education, he did not qualify for the Naval aviator training program as a cadet. As such, Power enlisted as a private and attended boot camp at MCRD San Diego.[1]

After completing boot camp, Power went through Officer Candidate at Quantico, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in June 1943. Because he was a seasoned pilot already, Power was assigned to an accelerated flight training program at MCAS Corpus Christi, Texas and trained as a multiengine transport pilot. He earned his Naval Aviator wings and was promoted to First Lieutenant April 1944.

After some additional training at the Flight Instructor Instrument School, Power was assigned to VMR-352 (“Raiders”), based at Cherry Point, North Carolina. In this assignment, Lieutenant Power flew the Curtiss R5C-Commando.[2]  He remained with VMR-352 from October 1944 until mid-January 1945.

In January 1945, Lieutenant Power was assigned to VMR-353, and was shipped out to combat zones in the Pacific. The VMR-353 squadron was briefly based at Kwajalein before moving on to Saipan in March 1945. Power flew numerous missions while assigned to VMR-353. He took part in the air supply and evacuation of wounded Marines from Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and did see some combat, especially on Okinawa. Power remained with VMR-353 until hostilities with Japan ended in September 1945.

Lieutenant Power was ordered off deployment in late November 1945, and returned stateside. He was released from active duty by the Marine Corps in January 1946. Power returned to his film career and made 22 more movies after World War II ended.

Power’s personal decorations for his service during World War II include the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars and the World War II Victory Medal.

Although he was released from active duty and resumed his film career, Tyrone Power remained in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was promoted to Captain in May 1951. However, he was not called back to active service during the Korean War. Power remained in the Marine Corps Reserve until his death in November 1958. At the time of his passing, Tyrone Power was a Major. He was buried with full military honors, including a full Marine Corps honor guard from MCAS El Toro.


[1] At the request of 20th Century Fox, Power was allowed to finish production on the film Crash Dive before reporting for active duty. This movie was fairly typical of early World War II films that were generally geared to promoting support for the war effort on the home front.

 [2] The R5C Commando is more commonly known as the Curtiss-Wright C-46. This aircraft was used extensively in the Pacific Theatre by both Naval and Marine Corps squadrons. It was also used, to a much lesser extent, by US Army Air Forces is final days of the war in Europe.

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